Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Snowpocalypse to Iceworms

Hi Sea Fans!

My last post was going to be really long so I thought I'd cut it short and continue today.  Cordova was where I went to the Prince William Sound Science Centre and I got to see a snowpocalypse (, I got to learn about the Copper River Watershed and glaciers and I got to meet the Urchin Queens and the Nefarious Dawgsharks.

I also got to go to the Oil Spill Recovery Institute (OSRI) where I learnt more about the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill and what the OSRI does to manage oil spills.  

Learning about oil spill "booms".

This actually reminded me of the Treasure Oil Spill in South Africa in 2000 and of SANCCOB who helped those poor penguins that got oiled.  (See the SANCCOB website for more:

Anyway, back to Cordova...I got to do such cool stuff in the lab at the Science Centre, have a look:

Using a fluorometer.

A fluorometer is a piece of equipment that measures fluorescence which is the light emitted during absorption of radiation of some other wavelength (a light shines onto the substance in the test tube and then this causes molecules of certain compounds to light up so that they can be counted). 

Analysing plankton from a recent research cruise in Prince William Sound.
Using a spectrophotometer.

spectrophotometer is a piece of equipment used to measure light intensity (strength).

The Science Centre also runs a marine technology programme where students learn about oil spills and then get to build and operate a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to "respond" to a mock oil spill. These ROV kits also get sent out to teachers around Alaska so that they can show them to their kids AND the teachers can even do training courses - how cool is that?!  I wish we got ROV kits in South Africa!  

Working with Coast Guard members Chris Verlinden and Steve Leckemby who volunteer at  the
Prince William Sound Science Centre. They're busy fixing ROV control boxes.

(Since my visit, Kara tells me that she's taking the ROVs to the Science Bowl for the Tsunami Bowl competition where there'll be a 20-team challenge.  Students will work in teams and compete in 5 groups at a time to complete an obstacle course).

I was also lucky enough to get to go to the Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage.

I'm not sure why this photo came out sideways, I've tried reloading it and it still does funny things so please excuse the  neck ache you have to get to look at me at the Symposium! : )

The most fun was the Iceworm Festival though! This zany mid-winter festival celebrates the emergence (appearance) of the ice worm in Cordova, Alaska, where the winters are long and dark and give rise to thoughts of things like ice worms. The highlight of the three-day festival is the parade of a 150-foot-long ice worm (it has a dragon's head) followed by 500 or so paraders. Other events include variety shows, ski events, a survival-suit race, a beauty pageant, music, and dances.

The celebration began in 1961 as a way to shake off the winter blahs, and the legend was born then that an ice worm hibernates during the winter in the glaciers but starts to hatch or wake up in early February. The worm has gained international fame, and the festival draws great crowds of people.

See this short video: 

With Kara and the Baby Iceworm at the Iceworm Parade.
I got to meet the Baby Iceworm, watch the survival suit races and they even let me try one of the survival suits on!
              Attending the Iceworm Festival Survival Suit Races
 with Alexis Cooper, Marita Kleissler, Kara Johnson and Kim Menster.

Trying on a survival suit.

As you can see, Alaska was a blast!!  We had so much fun and I can't believe my time here has come and gone but I guess it's OFF TO A NEW ADVENTURE!  Thanks for having me Kara, look me up if you ever go down south.

Have a great week Sea Fans and I'll see you soon with stories from Oregon.
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